Wanstead Flats, Redbridge
One of the largest expanses of common land in urban London – but it does not compare with Hampstead Heath or Wimbledon Common because it is so featureless
Wanstead Flats constitute the southernmost part of Epping Forest but most of the trees were cleared several centuries ago. The area was formerly known as the Lower Forest or Wanstead Heath and commoners had ‘rights of turbary’ here, which meant that they could dig peat for fuel.
In the late 18th century an annual market for cattle from Wales, Scotland, and the north of England took place from the end of February to the beginning of May.
Commoners consistently resisted attempted encroachments by neighbouring landowners and fought legal battles with Lord Mornington, Earl Cowley and others from the 1850s until the flats were preserved under the Epping Forest Act of 1878.
From later in the 19th century until the outbreak of the First World War, an Easter pleasure fair was held here.
Alexandra Pond (colloquially Alex Pond) was created in 1906–7 and named in honour of Edward VII’s queen-consort, Alexandra of Denmark.
Dames Road Pond (also known as the Model Yacht Pond) was redesigned as a conservation and wildlife feature in 2002 and renamed the Jubilee Pond. By the time of Her Majesty’s next jubilee serious problems of water loss had become evident, necessitating a further programme of enhancements that have included the installation of a new impermeable lining.
Forty fire engines and more than 225 firefighters tackled a large grass fire on Wanstead Flats in July 2018.
Postal districts: E7, E11 and E12
Website: Wanstead Wildlife: Wanstead Flats
See also: Aldersbrook